State Controller Westly calls for investments in California's water supply system; supports new ACWA action plan

California's top financial officer said on May 4 that investments in water supply infrastructure will be critical to keeping the state's economy and environment strong in the future.

State Controller Steve Westly told members of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) that investments such as those recommended in ACWA's newly released action plan in water will be necessary to meet the needs of a growing state.

"Water is a key part of our future," Westly told an audience of about 800 at the ACWA 2005 Spring Conference. "The state is growing by about 600,000 people per year. Water is the lifeblood of our economy, our agricultural system and everything else. If we don't make the smart, balanced investments you are talking about in your plan, we will not survive as a first-class economy."

Earlier Wednesday, ACWA unveiled "No Time to Waste: A Blueprint for California Water." The document lays out a mix of investments in infrastructure and programs to ensure the state has the water supply system it will need to support people, jobs and the environment in the future.

The Blueprint was presented at the conference's opening session to California Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow, who accepted the document on behalf of the Schwarzenegger Administration. It is being widely distributed to legislators, state and federal officials and other key audiences this week.

Snow voiced support for the ACWA document and said it came it at "the perfect time" to help frame discussion over how to meet future water needs.

"My view is that it's going to contribute significantly to the discussion we are in," Snow said. He called it compatible with the department's California Water Plan Update (Bulletin 160) released in public draft form last month. "Your document brings together diverse interests within the water community. These actions help us get to a more resilient water supply for the state with the kind of flexibility we will need."

Snow said DWR's water plan emphasizes several foundational actions: getting the most utility of every drop of water, protecting water quality and practicing environmental stewardship. It also calls for investment in integrated regional water management and investment in the state's backbone infrastructure.

Key recommendations include improving the existing water conveyance system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta; evaluating long-term threats to Delta levees and pursuing actions to reduce risks to the state?s water supply and the environment; developing additional groundwater and surface water storage; and supporting and funding local efforts to expand recycled water use, water use efficiency and desalination of seawater and brackish groundwater.

ACWA is a statewide association whose 440 members are responsible for about 90 percent of the water delivered in California.

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This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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